Four star game reserve, South Africa

The To Hell & Gone Walking Experience

This hike follows the same track as the 4x4 vehicles. The 4x4 booklet is used as a reference in condensed form. It includes a lot of stories and information about this historic footpath.

The trail is roughly 11 km in and 11 km back. The best time flower-wise is through spring and early summer.

Brief info

Hikers use their own vehicle to drive to the starting point at the gate on the top of the Bosluiskloof pass.

This is a mountain fynbos area and its historical attraction is that it was a much used footpath of the old inhabitants of the Hell ( Gamkaskloof ) to gain supplies or to visit Ladismith. On the eastern end the road ends at the “Ladder “- a name attached to the small path going right down into the Hell because of its steep incline and zig-zag pattern. The vista from the top of the ladder all around and down into the Hell is awesome.

Some of the restored buildings down in the Hell can be spotted. On a clear day the road down into the Hell at the very eastern end can also be seen – zig-zagging down the Great Swartberg mountain. It was built in 1962 – a century after the road through Bosch Luys Kloof was built!

Refer to the stories and info following. There are Kudu, Gemsbok ( Oryx) and Grey Rhebuck in the area.

Enjoy the walk!

The “To Hell ‘n Gone” 4x4 Trail - extracts

Bosch Luys Kloof PNR is not a 4x4 destination, but through the development of the To Hell ‘n Gone 4x4 Trail we would like to offer guests who are interested an opportunity to experience a part of this hidden world with their own 4x4 vehicles.

The trail is a ±11 km route along the fynbos covered sandstone hills of the Greater Swartberg Mountain range with a beautiful and truly unique view of Gamkaskloof (The Hell) and the surrounding mountain nature reserves. Its starting point is approximately 7/8 km from the Lodge. Its turning point is at “The Ladder” lookout point.

The Gamkaskloof Trail is a two spoor 4x4 track with a difficulty grading of three. This track enables even inexperienced 4x4 owners to enjoy beautiful nature scenes and experience the lovely outdoors without taking much risk of damaging their vehicles. Good tyres are an essential however. This is a very sensitive ecosystem - NO fires permitted

1 Historical references on the Trail

1.1. The ladder (Die leer)

The Otto du Plessis Pass into Gamkaskloof was built between 1959 and 1962 to connect this kloof with the ‘outside world’. Before the construction of the road people who lived in Gamkaskloof had to use walking trails over rough terrains to reach other towns. Four main access routes were used, one in the east, Elandspad, two through the northern and southern poorts, Noordpoort and Onderstepoort, and the Ladder in the west.

The ladder was a multi used route out of Gamkaskloof. When walking (climbing!) the ladder, one elevates or decent almost 400 meters over a distance of only about 900 meters! This route is dangerous and a challenge for even experienced hikers. Down in the kloof the entrance is near two vertical mountain edges.

Historically only donkeys were used to transport goods up and down as no ox or horse could overcome the climb. Each donkey had to be packed carefully with no more than 45kg evenly distributed on each side of its back.

The farmers from Gamkaskloof produced a number of dried fruit products, honey and eggs which had to be “sold” to the “outside world”. After the harvesting and processing of the agricultural products the farmers would join together and take their products out of the Kloof. The agents or shop owners who used to buy the products would meet the farmers at the top of the Ladder or at Wedersiens where the products were loaded on to the wagons and later on small trucks (Bakkies) of the buyers.

1.2 The Waenhuis (Wagon house)

The Waenhuis was some kind of storage room for the Klowers. They would produce and process their fresh products, grapes, citrus, honey and even strawberries, in their own good time and whenever they had a donkey-load the farmers brought the products to the Waenhuis. When it was well stocked, (each farmer knowing exactly which of the products is his) hawkers/buyers came in to buy it all. Usually such an occasion was a rather jolly one! The farmers, their wives and families would join in to meet the hawkers who brought with them clothes, groceries, liquor and sweets to sell/swop. Today however, a rock/stone-skeleton is all that’s left of the Waenhuis.

1.3 “Wedersiens” (To see/meet again)

Wedersiens is another historical meeting point on the trail. There is a fountain only ±50 meters from this meeting point down in a small kloof/gorge which the Klowers called “Houwaterkloof”. A short footpath leads to a lookout over the fountain. The original historical track passed right next to the fountain. It was severely damaged in 1961 during a flood. The current track was rebuild in 1963.

We would like to think of Wedersiens as a happy place! It meant the end of the farmers dangerous transporting route, it’s the place where they received money or other goods for their hard work, and for man and beast there were always cool and fresh fountain water to quench a thirst.

The name of Wedersiens allegedly derived when the Klowers headed back to their homes down in Gamkaskloof after they visited the “outside world”. Because the route they had to follow from this point onwards was so bad they would then greet the “outside world” saying: “Tot Wedersiens /Till we meet again!” not knowing when they would see it (the outside world) again.

Some Klowers at times had to hire a wagon to transport the groceries/goods they had bought in the nearest towns, mostly Calitzdorp, Ladismith and even Oudtshoorn. The transport cost was agreed per mile. But from Wedersiens onwards, towards the Ladder the transporter usually charged the Klowers double because the old road was so bad.

One story told by a great local story teller of this area goes like this: In 1957 the four Cordier brothers, Piet, Hans, Koot and Carel bought a heap of goods in Calitzdorp which included a stove and a wagon! They then hired a man to transport all of their supplies to the Waenhuis at the top of The Ladder. Passing Wedersiens, already paying double the normal rate per mile, they saw a large fig tree, lying across the track, roots in the air and leaves on the ground, probably blown over by the wind. In those days the believe was that even the devil would not pass a tree growing “upside down”. The wagon driver jumped off his wagon and shouted at the Cordier brothers; “The devil himself will not pass this tree!! And now you want me to pass it?!” The wagon driver was so upset by the fallen tree that the Cordier brothers had to double the payment per mile for a second time before he agreed to continue! Nevertheless, they reached The Ladder, carried the groceries, stove and wagon into Gamkaskloof and held a huge opskop (party) that weekend, celebrating the first wagon in the Kloof!!

2 Scenery along the Route

2.1 The Ladder lookout

After following the 4x4 trail for ±11 km you will reach the lookout point. From there a person can admire The Hell from quite another angle. The lookout point enables a person to view almost the entire Gamkaskloof from the western end. The road built by Koos Van Zyl in 1959 can be seen in the East as it zig-zags down into the Kloof. The Great Swartberg Mountains bordering Gamkaskloof and Bosch Luys Kloof can be seen for vast distances from this point. For many a visitor this view is far superior to the view from East to West. In some colder winter months white snow covered peaks can be seen and in particular the Seweweekspoort peak (highest in the Western Cape) that is clearly visible to the West.

2.2 Hartmansberg / Gamkapoort Canyon and Dam

Following the Trail from west to east you will see the highest mountain “top” on Bosch Luys Kloof PNR, known as Hartmansberg at 1 347 m above sea level to your left. From the eastern edge of Hartmansberg to the Gamka River Bed down below is an unbelievable vertical drop of nearly 1 000 meters and a magnificent sight. (Reference – The Ladder drop is 400m and the Bosluiskloof River Canyon has a drop of nearly 600 m. The Fish River Canyon in Namibië has a drop of about 550 m. The Grand Canyon in the USA at the deepest point is about 1 830 meters.)

3. Vegetation

The To Hell ‘n Gone 4x4 Trail is surrounded by lovely Fynbos. Fynbos is characteristically a hard-leafed, relatively open shrub land, about 1-3m tall, often with scattered taller bushes protruding above the canopy. Fynbos shrubs vary greatly in height and density but are mostly richly branched, with twisted trunks. Trees are virtually absent. Grasses are uncommon in most Fynbos communities. The Fynbos in this area are however fairly grassy wherever there is accumulated soil, but the grasses are dominated by relatively unpalatable Merxmuellera species. Fynbos mostly occurs on acidic coarse-grained soils that are poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. As a whole, fynbos is most inclusively defined as an evergreen, hard-leafed shrubland occurring on nutrient poor soils, especially those derived from heavily leached sandstones or limestone.

This vegetation type is commonly mistaken for Renosterveld for it is rich in fine-leaved cupressoid and ericoid shrubs, but it contains all three Fynbos elements (proteas, ericas and restios) which distinctively differs from the Renosterveld vegetation type found in the Northern parts of the Reserve. The difference between the Renosterveld and Fynbos vegetation in the area are clearer in spring when most Fynbos species are in bloom. Examples of fynbos species commonly mistaken for Renosterbos when they are not flowering are:

  • Blombos
  • Douwurm-/Luibos
  • Duinebuchu
  • Cape Gorse
  • Gonna

3.1 Adaptations of Fynbos

Fynbos plants exhibit several adaptations to enhance the uptake of minerals from the soils. The most common, ground in plants through the world, relies on a symbiotic relationship with a soil fungus known as a ‘mycrorhiza’. This fungus, which forms an intimate association with the roots of the plant and may account for as much as 40% of the weight of its root system, reaches into the soil well beyond the roots to extract poorly soluble forms of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, releasing them to the plant as required in exchange for carbohydrates.

The foliage of fynbos shrubs is mostly brownish green or grayish in color. Leaves are typically small, stiff and leathery, with thick cuticles and internal struts of woody tissue to prevent them from collapsing under moisture stress. The lower surface is often protected by hairs. Many fynbos plants are rich in bitter tannins or aromatic oils, which may serve to deter predators. The stomata are restricted to grooves where they are relatively protected from water loss, and are often also covered with hairs as additional insulation.

Flowering in Fynbos is concentrated in spring, between September and October, when pollinating insects are most in evidence. At this time of the year, some 60% of the species are in bloom, but at least a fifth of fynbos species can be found in flower in any month of the year.

Several fynbos bulbs have separated their growth and flowering phases, enabling them to flower in the dry season when competition for the available pollinators is relatively low.

The flowers of many fynbos plants are unusual in appearance, sometimes strikingly beautiful. This is the result of the wide variety of strategies that they have evolved for attracting pollinators, many of which are not commonly employed in this role in other parts of the world.

The low fertility of fynbos soils places a significant limitation on the production of seeds, which are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, both of which are in short supply. Possibly this is why many of the characteristic fynbos shrubs have few or just a single ovule per flower.

In some species, seed maturation takes place over many months, allowing longer periods for the accumulation of nutrients, Mass flowering after fire, when the level of nutrients in the soil has been increased by falls of ash, is another way of overcoming this limitation.

Many of the larger proteoid shrubs ensure survival after fire by sophisticated seed dormancy mechanisms, whereby germination is possible only when the moistened seeds are exposed to the alternating high and low temperatures that are experienced on the surface of soils that have been burned clear of other insulating vegetation.

3.2 Fire and Fynbos

Fynbos is a fire-adapted vegetation and evidence suggests that, in the absence of regular fires, all but the drier fynbos types would become dominated by trees. Fynbos can thus be viewed as a fire-dependent vegetation type, along with grasslands and savannas.

The infertility of fynbos soils means that the recycling of soil nutrients is essential for fynbos survival. Fire is the motor that drives this cycle, and fires at appropriate intervals are not only an integral, but also an essential part of fynbos ecology.

Fires in fynbos occur optimally every 10-14 years. Whereas bulbs and those short-lived species that make their appearance only after fires may flourish with more frequent burns, many shrubs reach reproductive maturity only after several years. Fires that occur too frequently, usually as a result of human intervention, destroy the adult plants of such slow-growing species and exhaust their seed banks, eventually bringing about their local extinction.

4 Stories (Available in Afrikaans only)

Die meeste stories oor “Die Hel” is vasgevang in die Boekie “Die Hel – Vallei van die Leeus” deur Sue van Waart. Hieronder is onder andere ‘n klompie aanhalings daaruit.

4.1 “DIE LEER”

“Aan die voet van “Die Leer” is ‘n stroompie water, groen gras en bome. As jy daar gaan lê met jou moeë liggaam, dink jy dadelik aan Psalm 23. Groen weivelde en waters waar rus is. So moes die plek gelyk het waar die psalmdigter die woorde geskryf het.”

“By die takkraal aan die bopunt van “Die Leer” is daar ‘n graf. Dalk ‘n trekker s’n?” (Daar is vandag nog oorblyfsels van ‘n latere klipwaenhuis.)

“Oor die bynaam Die Hel is meer as een storie, maar die aanvaarde een is dat Piet Botha, veeinspekteur op Calitzdorp in die 1920’s, een maal per maand brandsiek skape daar moes gaan dip tydens ‘n epidemie. Die moeisame tog teen “Die Leer” af en daarna skommelend-skurend op ‘n donkie se rug in die snikhete somermaande, het die tog vir hom “hel” (op aarde?) gemaak. Die naam het buite die Kloof posgevat en vasgesteek.”

““Die Leer” was ‘n veelgebruikte roete. Die paadjie herinner aan die sporte van ‘n leer teen ‘n muur. Dis ‘n voetpad wat sowat 900 m klim, en na twaalf kilometer kom dit bo by die Bosluiskloofpad uit. Die roete was gevaarlik en ‘n uitdaging vir selfs ervare stappers soos die ou Klowers. Dit loop oor Piet Cordier se plaas, Kleinberg, en is meestal deur die Cordiers gebruik. Hierdie paadjie is die rede waarom veeinspekteur Piet Botha Gamkaskloof Die Hel genoem het. Pakdonkies was die enigste diere wat sukkel-sukkel daar kon uit. Perde het eenvoudig geweier”.

“Die Cordiers wat naby “Die Leer” gebly het, was getuies van vele vragte goedere wat daardie lewensgevaarlike steiltes uitgestuur is buitewêreld toe, ook tydens die Tweede Wêreldoorlog (1939-1945). Baie konfyt was nodig vir die troepe in die Noorde en die buiteland.”

“Gert Pretorius van Calitzdorp het besluit om die Klowers se vrugte vir hulle te bemark, S.A. Dried Fruit Co. van Worcester het dit van hom gekoop.”

“Donderdagoggende het die uittog begin. Enigiets van twaalf tot vyftien donkies is gebruik. Twee en ‘n halwe suikersakke per donkie is gelaai en met sagte bindtou weerskante van die pakdier vasgemaak. Die gewig moes goed balanseer. Dan is die donkies “Die Leer” uit. Dit was ‘n pragtige gesig om die donkietrein teen “Die Leer” te sien. Na elke vierde donkie het ‘n man gestap om te help as die vrag skuif of iets. Drie uur lank het die uitmergelende uittog geduur tot bo by die wagtende bakkie. Daar is die vye oorgepak en in sakke toegewerk. Die sakke is stasie toe en op die trein gelaai, wat dit Vrydag of Maandag by die fabriek aflaai.”

“So ‘n tog was dikwels twee voorafgaande dae se werk. ‘n Eeu en langer het die Klowers hoofsaaklik ‘n eie, selfvoorsienende bedrywigheid gehad, tot die eerste skool geopen het. Daar word vertel dat die eerste markgerigte ekonomie begin het na die skool op Middelplaas gevestig is.”

“’n Vroeë opgetekende verhaal wat die bestaan van wit mense in die Kloof bevestig is die van Deneys Reitz, seun van F.W. Reitz, eertydse Vrystaatse president en Staatsekretaris van die ZAR, wat tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog daarheen verdwaal het.”


“Dit gebeur nie dikwels dat die Gamka- (leeumannetjie) en Dwyka- (leeuin) riviere gelyktydig in vloed is nie. Maar wanneer dit gebeur, is dit skouspelagtig en ‘n onvergeetlike gesig. Die twee sterkvloeiende riviere ontmoet by ‘n “bottelnek”. ‘n Natuurlike fenomeen gebeur met die kleur van die modderige waters wat verskil en duidelik sigbaar is wanneer hulle stoei vir die reg om eerste deur die nou skeur te kom. Die een stoot die ander terug. Dit dam op in die loop. Dan word die druk te veel en gee een van die twee bes. Wanneer die water deurbreek, weergalm dit in die klowe met eggo’s wat klink soos ‘n donderstorm of kanonvuur. Leeu teen leeuin vir die wenposisie.”(Aantekening: Na die bou van dié dam in die bottelnek is die verskynsel natuurlik verewig beeindig.)


“ Die Swartberge, die skouspelagtigste bergketting in Suidelike Arika, vorm ‘n 200 km versperring tussen die Klein Karoo en Groot Karoo. Dit was bekend aan die Hottentotte as Cango (uitgespreek as kaang-goo), wat beteken “berge van water”, of, volgens sommige, “vars, suiwer water” of “helderskoon water”.”

“Op 2 326 meter of 7 600 voet is die Seweweekspoortpiek die hoogste in die reeks.”


“Seweweekspoort is deel van die Kloof se verhaleskat. Baie mense het dit as toegangspad (na die Groot Karoo) gebruik. Die naam het vele uitlegte. Goewerneur Severn Weeks se naam is glo verdraai. Of dit kom van ‘n trekboer wat in die voortyd verdwaal en sewe weke rondgedool het voor hy die pad Laingsburg toe kon kry. Of van ‘n veedief wat gevlug het voor die gereg en sewe weke daar geskuil het voor hy gevang is. Of dis genoem na die Berlynse sendeling, ene Zerwick, wat in die volksmond Seweweek geword het.”


“Op die regte tyd blom die heidesoorte welig. Kinders van weleer het dit pêreltjies genoem en in stringe ingeryg soos krale. Dis nou die bosluis- of “balletjies” –heide. – Dit is een van die verklarings van die “Bosluiskloof”-naam.


Weens die lang en moeilike staptogte wat die Klowers gereeld aangepak het en miskien ook van die baie loop in die omliggende berge van die vallei het die Klowers ‘n unieke vorm van stap ontwikkel. Dit was amper of hulle in die “gewone wêreld” hulle tree eksta lank gerek het met die hele liggaam wat amper effens op en af beweeg soos hulle stap. En hulle kon ‘n lang pad kort maak!

Dié storie is bevestig deur baie mense onder andere deur Mnr George Nefdt na wie ook hierin verwys word.


Kort nadat jy deur die hek in ry op die “To Hell ‘n Gone” roete kry jy ‘n baie mooi terugblik op die Bosluiskloofpas se ou klipstutmure wat daar uit die 1850/60’s dateer. ‘n Kilometer of wat verder op die eerste hoër rante kry jy ‘n pragtige blik weswaarts. Net onder die Swartberge, links van die pad bokant die dam lê die plaas Waterval waar Mnr George Nefdt nog steeds woon. Hy stap aan na tagtig jaar en het nog vele stories van die mense van die Hel waar hulle as jongmense dikwels gaan kuier het.

‘n Interessante stukkie geskiedenis is dat die mense uit die Hel met ‘n stelsel van rooksiene van dié uitkykplek na sy moeder, Tant Tiekie Nefdt, wie op Waterval ‘n winkel bedryf het, laat weet het as daar nuwe voorraad uit die Hel is of as hulle iets wou hê van die winkel. Toe die Reservaat se span draadwerkers so 10 jaar terug daar bo gewerk het, het Mnr George Nefdt nog weer vir hulle gewys hoe om vir hom rookseine te stuur na Waterval toe vir voorrade.

NOTA: Soos met baie goeie stories die geval is, kan ons nie instaan vir die egtheid daarvan nie! Of, soos ook tereg gesê word, waarom sal ‘n man ‘n goeie storie met die waarheid bederf!

Alle aanhalings met volle erkenning aan Me Sue van Waart, die skryfster van die bekende boekie, “Die Hel – Vallei van die Leeus” en Mnr George Nefdt van “Waterval”, Koueveld Dist., Klein Swartberg.

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